Urijah Faber is one of the more popular fighters on the UFC's roster, but his popularity comes nowhere close to describing just how important Faber is to the introduction, acceptance and widespread usage of weight classes below lightweight. Put simply, he's the godfather for all fighters competing at 145 pounds or below; without Faber, they probably would've been afforded the chance to compete on the sport's biggest stage, but it may have taken a bit longer.
And though Faber's career in the cage since 2008 has ultimately been one of starts and stops, it's what "The California Kid" accomplished prior to that first loss to Mike Brown that truly gave him a lasting place in mixed martial arts.
Let's take an over-arching look at Faber's career timeline, highlighting some of his most notable moments.
June 14, 1979: Faber is born in Isla Vista, Calif. to Theo and Suzanne Faber.
In a profile story that I wrote for UFC Magazine two years ago, Faber told me that his parents raised him in what essentially amounted to a hippie lifestyle. Organic foods abounded and the Fabers were a happy go-lucky family, both of which heavily contributed to Faber's adult obsession with natural foods and the laid-back demeanor that made him one of the most popular fighters in mixed martial arts.
November 20, 2003: After wrestling throughout high school and college, Faber makes his professional debut against Jay Valencia for the Gladiator Challenge promotion in Colusa, Calif. Faber stops Valencia by strikes at just 1:22 in the first round. Faber would continue fighting for Gladiator Challenge until 2007.
November 14, 2004: Faber captures the first title of his professional career when he defeats Eben Kaneshiro for the King of the Cage bantamweight title.
September 10, 2005: Faber suffers the first loss of his career when Tyson Griffin TKO's him just five seconds into the third round of their Gladiator Challenge featherweight title fight. It wasn't just Faber's first loss, but it was also the start of a rivalry that spans to this day. It's not a personal rivalry; for Faber, it's just a loss that he wants to erase from his record. "I'd definitely like to avenge the loss, of course," Faber told MMAjunkie.com in 2008. "It's my only blemish."
March 17, 2006: Faber captures the World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title with a win over Cole Escovedo at WEC 19. Later that year, Zuffa, the owners of the rising Ultimate Fighting Championship promotion, would purchase the WEC, almost entirely because the organization wanted Faber under contract.
October 28, 2006: In his final non-Zuffa fight, Faber faces and defeats Bibiano Fernandes to retain his WEC featherweight championship. It was Faber's first title defense, as he'd spent time fighting outside the promotion until Zuffa bought the WEC and made Faber its exclusive property. From this point forward, Faber was a Zuffa company man—and he would become one of the most reliable pitchmen it's ever had.
March 24, 2007: Faber submits Dominick Cruz at just 1:38 of the first round in their WEC 26 main event, kicking off a rivalry that would still hum at fever pitch more than six years later. Cruz would go on to become the WEC and then UFC bantamweight champion and one of the best fighters in the sport, but Faber was better at WEC 26. Cruz has spoken of this loss as one of the best things that happened to him during his career because it forced him to learn from his mistakes and become a better fighter.
November 5, 2008: Faber loses his WEC featherweight title to Mike Brown, who capitalized on a Faber mistake and knocked out the long-reigning champion in the first round. The loss was only the second of Faber's career, but it would start a trend: Faber has never been successful in a title fight since this loss.
January 29, 2009: Faber beats Jens Pulver to earn a title shot at Brown, starting yet another trend: Faber losing a title shot, then immediately earning another one with a single win over a non-contending fighter.
June 7, 2009: Faber loses for a second time to Mike Brown at WEC 41, this time by decision. He's sent to the back of the pack after two consecutive losses in title fights. Or is he?
January 10, 2010: Faber earns a third title shot, this time against new champion Jose Aldo, by defeating Raphael Assuncao.
April 24, 2010: Faber loses to Aldo, his third consecutive title fight loss. But the story of this fight was the fact that it was the first (and only) WEC event ever held on pay-per-view, and that was entirely due to Faber's popularity. Despite losing consecutive title fights, Faber still held enough sway to be seen as a moderate pay-per-view draw for a company that had never before appeared on anything but standard cable. The fight also helped turn Aldo into a star after he thrashed Faber's legs with vicious kicks for the entirety of their five-round fight.
November 11, 2010: Faber fights for the final time in the WEC, beating Takeya Mizugaki while returning to bantamweight for the first time since early in his career. Afterward, he signs a new contract, this time with the UFC as all lower weight classes are folded into the promotion.
March 19, 2011: Faber debuts in the UFC with a win over Eddie Wineland at UFC 128. The win also secures Faber a title shot, this time against bantamweight champion Cruz.
July 2, 2011: Faber loses to Cruz in the main event of UFC 132. It's his fourth consecutive loss in a title fight.
November 19, 2011: Faber defeats Brian Bowles to earn another shot at the title. He and Cruz are selected as coaches for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, but Cruz is injured late in the show and is replaced by Renan Barao. The fight will be for an interim title while Cruz undergoes surgery and recovers.
July 21, 2012: Faber loses to Barao in his fifth consecutive title fight loss.
February 23, 2013: Faber beats Ivan Menjivar.